One of our recommended books is Louder Than Hunger by John Schu


Revered teacher, librarian, and story ambassador John Schu explores anorexia–and self-expression as an act of survival–in a wrenching and transformative novel-in-verse.

But another voice inside me says,
We need help.
We’re going to die.

Jake volunteers at a nursing home because he likes helping people. He likes skating and singing, playing Bingo and Name That Tune, and reading mysteries and comics aloud to his teachers. He also likes avoiding people his own age . . . and the cruelty of mirrors . . . and food. Jake has read about kids like him in books–the weird one,

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  • Candlewick Press (MA)
  • Hardcover
  • March 2024
  • 528 Pages
  • 9781536229097

Buy the Book

$18.99 indies Bookstore

About John Schu

John Schu is the author of Louder Than HungerJohn Schu is the author of the acclaimed picture books This Is a School, illustrated by Veronica Miller Jamison, and This Is a Story, illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Lauren Castillo. He also wrote the adult study The Gift of Story: Exploring the Affective Side of the Reading Life and was named a Library Journal Mover and Shaker for his dynamic interactions with students and his passionate adoption of new technologies as a means of connecting authors, illustrators, books, and readers. Children’s librarian for Bookelicious, part-time lecturer at Rutgers University, and former Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, Mr. Schu–as he is affectionately known–continues to travel the world to share his love of books. He lives in Naperville, Illinois. You can find him at and on social media @MrSchuReads.


“This heart-wrenching verse novel—inspired by the author’s experiences, as discussed in an end note by Schu (This Is a Story)—is an unflinching depiction of resistance and disordered eating recovery.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Jake’s struggle with anorexia isn’t easy to read but his ultimate steps toward health provide hope, as does this much-needed and underrepresented male perspective on eating ­disorders.”School Library Journal (starred review)

“A beautiful, powerful, and emotionally impactful book. Jake’s story will fill you with hope and the courage to face your own challenges!”Jeff Kinney, author of the New York Times best-selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series

“Every so often a book comes along that is so brave and necessary, it extends a lifeline when it’s needed most. This is one of those books.” —Katherine Applegate, author of the Newbery Medal–winning The One and Only Ivan

“Captivating, poignant, graceful, and so important. John Schu is a masterful storyteller, and his lyrical prose will be relatable to anyone dealing with self-acceptance. It’s the kind of book that adults will want to put into the hands of kids, but they won’t need to. Kids will be giving it to each other.” —Dav Pilkey, author of the New York Times best-selling Dog Man series

Louder Than Hungeris a powerful and important book, giving readers entry into the world of a sensitive teen, struggling physically and emotionally with crippling anxiety and anorexia. Through his free verse voice, we accompany Jake into his honest, raw, vulnerable world. I think readers of all ages will empathize with him, worry for him, and root for his journey to understanding, recovery, hope, and joy.” —Sharon Creech, Newbery Medalist

“Masterfully lyrical, powerfully raw, and incredibly moving, Louder Than Hunger is a marvel. Jake’s story will break and mend your heart. A book full of unflinching and vulnerable truths, but also filtered with inspiring light. Necessary and important.” —Jasmine Warga, best-selling and Newbery Honor–winning author of Other Words for Home

Discussion Questions

  1. Early in his narrative, Jake tries to figure out “who I am” (page 6). Why is he confused? What has changed in his life since elementary school? Why doesn’t he have friends his age? What factors have driven him to listen to the Voice and to stop eating enough?
  2. The Voice’s first words in the story are about Jake’s growling stomach: “The Voice tells it to S T O P” (page 7). Why does the Voice feel like a friend to Jake? Give examples of its main messages. How can you tell that Jake is changing in his relationship to the Voice? When does it feel like he’s stronger than the Voice? Relate the Voice to Jake’s experience with bullies and other hostile peers. Discuss how the text fonts vary in size and darkness to reflect the Voice’s messages.
  3. Why are Jake and the Voice obsessed with eating? About weighing himself, why does Jake say, “The lower the number on the scale goes, the bigger I feel” (page 16)? Connect your answers to Jake’s statement “I tried to disappear” (page 367). In this context, discuss the book’s title and the Emily Dickinson poem that begins, “I’m Nobody!” (page 8).
  4. Discuss Jake’s relationship with his grandmother, why it’s important to him, and how it’s changed since he started avoiding food. What is she like? What happens to her? How does her letter (pages 343–344) express her love for Jake? Explain what Kella means when she says, “Your grandma’s always with you” (page 339).
  5. Talk about what you learn from Jake’s comment about visiting his grandmother: “Friday means three days away from Mom and her sadness. Three days away from Dad, who’s never home anyway” (page 34). What’s his relationship like with each parent? How does the incident with the waterbed illustrate some of the tensions? What shows that their relationships eventually improve?
  6. Trust is a big issue for Jake. Why does the Voice tell him not to trust Ruth, Nurse Bruce, and Dr. Parker? Discuss Jake’s description of entering group therapy: “Ruth calls it a circle of trust. I sit outside the circle. I don’t trust them” (page 103); discuss his questions on Day 126, “How do you know when to trust? How do you know when to believe?” (page 353). Who does he come to trust, and what causes the change?
  7. Why do the counselors at Whispering Pines think it’s important for Jake to make friends his own age? How does Kella become a friend? What do they share? What do they learn from each other? Talk about her letter (page 358). In what way does her visit to Jake at Whispering Pines show how much he has changed?
  8. In his therapy group, a girl named Evangeline urges Jake to share, but he doesn’t. Evangeline looks disappointed, and Jake thinks, “I disappoint everyone” (page 194). Who else does he think he disappoints? Give examples of how he thinks he lets them down. How do you think he disappoints himself?
  9. Discuss the author’s note at the end of the book. Does knowing that he went through a similar experience influence how you see the story? How do you think personal knowledge of Jake’s problems has had an impact on the author’s writing? Discuss the novel’s dedication: “For thirteen-year-old me, who needed a book like this one.”
  10. Two weeks before Jake leaves Whispering Pines, he thanks Dr. Parker for helping him see that “anorexia nervosa isn’t really about food” (page 491). What does he mean? Connect your answer to Jake’s earlier comments, “I’m tired of anorexia nervosa defining me, controlling every thought and action” (pages 485–486) and “I gave in to my eating disorder. It controlled me when I thought I controlled it” (page 371).



Am I Nobody Too?

When I can’t run anymore

I sit down again at my

big brown desk.



knocks, knocks, knocks

on my bedroom door.


I ignore her.




I don’t have

enough energy

to tell her to


to leave me alone.


I wish everyone

would leave me alone—





Worry enters the room.


She brings it

wherever she goes.


You can feel it.


Smell it.


Mom puts a plate of

pretzels and pepperoni

on my desk next to me.


My stomach




The Voice says,








She says,


Why haven’t you started your homework?


This isn’t like you.


What’s going on?


I want to say,


This isn’t like you.


You don’t usually care.


I glare at



wishing X and Y


run away.


I imagine

feeding the

garbage disposal


pepperoni, and these wretched worksheets,






tiny bits